Alan King may not have as high a profile as Paul Nicholls or Willie Mullins, but he quietly goes about training winners that usually win him around £1 Million in prize most seasons. This season he’s already amassed 75 winners at an impressive strike-rate of 25%, and he’s already won over 750,000 in prize money.
The two biggest races in National Hunt Racing have eluded him so far, the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but his 15 Cheltenham Festival winners include a Champion Hurdle (Katchit), a Queen Mother Champion Chase (Voy Por Ustedes) and a World Hurdle (My Way De Solzen).
So, let’s take a look at the ammunition the King of Barbury Castle may fire at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Last year’s Neptune Novices Hurdle Runner-up started the season as a leading candidate for the Stayers Hurdle, formerly the World Hurdle, but he has had his attentions swapped to the Champion Hurdle. Many thought that the 2-mile trip would be too sharp for him, but he put his doubters to bed with a defeat of useful yardstick The New One in the Christmas Hurdle. Looks to have either Faugheen or Annie Power to beat but, as neither of them have seen a racecourse so far this season, it’s no surprise that he’s a best-priced 5/1 in a division that appears to have little strength in depth.
Could yet be a second string in the Champion Hurdle, and was trading as low as 12/1 for that race after winning handicaps off marks of 139 and 149 earlier in the season. However, after getting stuck in the Newcastle mud last time, he is now out to 40/1. Would ideally like good ground, but may be aimed at one of the handicaps if Yanworth is considered much the better Champion Hurdle contender.
Messire Des Obeaux
Loved the way he travelled and jumped when winning the Grade-1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury, and looks a contender for either the 2-mile 5-furlong Neptune Hurdle for which he’s 12/1, or the 3-mile Albert Bartlett for which he’s 20/1. Slight worry that he didn’t perform at last year’s Festival though, and his real future is probably as a 3-mile chaser.
Currently 50/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, with worthwhile challengers falling by the wayside every day, it’s possible that he might be able to improve on his eighth and sixth placed finishes in the last two years. Price may crumble if he repeats his BetBright Trial win of last year, but not really win material.
A winner on the flat off a mark of 87 over 2-miles, it’s likely that this 134-rated hurdler has got a big pot in him, and will love the good ground usually associated with the spring festivals. Not gone beyond 2-miles over hurdles so far, but looks sure to benefit from a step-up in trip, and I expect the stable already have a race in mind – even if they wouldn’t tell me what it was!